Skip to main content.

5 Common Health Conditions That Affect Minorities and Ways to Reduce Risk Factors

Posted February 23, 2023 by Bassey Ijoma, RN Mgr, Quality Improvement, Quality Mgmt – Commercial

Collage of people

Depending on your ethnic background, you may be at higher risk for certain diseases and chronic health conditions. While some of that risk is associated with genetics and lifestyle or cultural habits, another part of that risk is due to what’s called health disparities.

Health disparities highlight differences in social, economic, educational and health care opportunities among certain ethnic groups. These differences are caused by several factors, including:

  • Reduced access to high-quality and affordable health care
  • Less access to disease prevention efforts
  • Lack of quality education
  • Fewer social and economic advantages
  • Discrimination and racism

These disadvantages contribute to the increasing numbers of adverse health conditions in the minority and underserved communities.

SummaCare highlights 5 common diseases and chronic health conditions from which minorities are more likely to suffer and ways to reduce risk factors. While there is no quick fix for improving health disparities in this country, education and awareness is a big first step in solving the problem.


Hispanic and African-American adults have the highest prevalence of obesity in this country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social and economic disadvantages likely play a role in these statistics. For example, minority groups may have limited access to healthier foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, they may have limited access to factors that make exercise easier, such as no sidewalks or recreational areas. 

Unfortunately, obesity increases the risk of developing other dangerous health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer. The best way to combat obesity is education on healthy eating and improved sleep, and improving access to regular exercise.


Minority groups have a greater chance of developing diabetes and experiencing more complications from it than whites. In fact, the U.S. Office of Minority Health claims African-Americans are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes and twice more likely to die from it than whites. Hispanics are 70 percent more likely and Asian-Americans are 40 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the chronic disease than whites.

If diabetes is not properly managed, it can lead to severe complications, including heart or kidney disease, eye damage or nerve problems.

Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes. Fortunately, the risk factors for diabetes can be vastly reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and frequent doctor visits. For those that have diabetes, following these lifestyle habits are key to managing it and staying healthy.

Heart disease

Minority groups, especially African-Americans, are at an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 59 percent of African-American women have cardiovascular disease and stroke is the leading cause of death among them. What’s more, African-American men have a 70 percent higher risk of heart failure than white men.

These statistics may come as no surprise because obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.

Fortunately, heart disease can be preventable in some situations if controllable risk factors are reduced, such as maintaining a healthy weight, eating heart-healthy foods, exercising regularly and frequent doctor visits.


Asthma also disproportionally affects minority groups. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), African-American women are 20 percent more likely to have asthma than white women. Hispanics and Latinos also are at an increased risk.

Due to housing inequality, minority groups are more likely to be exposed to dangerous contaminants in their homes, such as mold, dust mites and tobacco smoke. In addition, they are more likely to live in the inner city, where factory and traffic pollution is heavier.

Unfortunately, these groups may not have the access or ability to seek health care and properly manage their condition.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases

African-Americans, more than any other ethnic group, bear the greatest burden of HIV in this country. According to the NIAID, African-Americans accounted for about 55 percent of HIV diagnoses in 2015. Hispanics and Latinos also are disproportionately affected by HIV and account for almost one quarter of new cases.

When it comes to other STDs, African-Americans also are at an increased risk. According to the NIAID, blacks accounted for approximately 55 percent of reported gonorrhea cases, 38 percent of reported syphilis cases and five to seven times the rate among white men and women of reported chlamydia cases in 2014.

Minority groups may be at a higher risk for STDs due to a lack of education and limited resources for disease prevention. STDs can be preventable by practicing safe sex and limiting sexual partners.

If you belong to a racial or ethnic group that faces health disparities, talk with a healthcare provider about your risks and ways to overcome challenges you may face.